HL Deb 13 July 1869 vol 197 cc1750-2

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, it was rendered necessary by the great inconvenience which had resulted from the abolition of composition for rates by a clause in the Representation of the People Act of 1867. Some idea might be formed of the inconvenience occasioned when it was stated that in nine boroughs 87,500 summonses for non-payment of rates had been issued. Before the Act passed composition was in force in no fewer than 171 boroughs, and the operation of the Act was felt to be a great hardship by the occupiers of small tenements, who paid rent weekly, because they were called upon to pay in advance a rate which exceeded in amount the rent due, while they were liable to be turned out at a week's notice. Under this Bill an occupier would not be called upon to pay a rate exceeding in amount the rent due to the landlord, and it was provided that they might deduct the rate so paid from the rent. The main object of the Bill was to reverse what was done by the clause in the Reform Act in depriving a large number of persons of the Parliamentary franchise. The Bill repealed the Small Tenements Act, and made composition possible throughout the country upon terms which were prescribed. In one case the occupier might pay the rate and deduct it from the landlord's rent; in a second the landlord would agree with the overseers, and would pay the rates; in which case he would get an allowance of 5 per cent; and in a third, the vestry might impose upon owners the obligation of paying the rates, and allow them a deduction of 15 per cent. In short, the Bill restored the power of compounding, and enabled it to be made universal throughout the country.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(The Lord Privy Seal)


was understood to say it had been represented to him that in the north-west part of England owners of property rated for their tenants had coerced them in voting.


said, he did not wish to offer any opposition to the Bill, but could not allow the second reading to pass without pointing out that the necessity for introducing it afforded a striking example of the inconvenience and mischief which arose from political parties pursuing a course for a temporary object. Two years ago, when this subject occupied attention, they were told that the security for the due exercise of the franchise was to be the personal payment of rates by those to whom it was granted. It was this that was to make the new extension of the franchise perfectly safe. In the discussion of the Reform Bill it was found that difficulties arose in applying this principle, and Parliament, in order to get rid of them, proceeded at once, without discussion and without consideration, to cut the Gordian knot by simply resolving that the whole system of compounding for rates should be put an end to. The then Government proposed this, and the Opposition, not to be left behind, said—"This is all we want; we approve entirely of what you propose to do—abolish compounding." It was in vain that persons from London and various parts of the country waited upon the then Leaders of the Opposition, as they had previously waited on Ministers, and pointed out to them the ill consequences which would result from such a measure. They were told—"Perhaps inconvenience may arise, but the political object for which the change is proposed is so important that we cannot resist the abolition of the compound-householder." When the Bill came up to this House he ventured to oppose the clause for the abolition of compounding, but his Motion for omitting it was resisted both by the Government and the Opposition. The inconvenience that had resulted from this change in the law of rating, thus recklessly made for a political object, had proved as he anticipated so great that, after much inquiry and consideration, it was now found necessary to restore compounding in some form; and this Bill was brought before them for that purpose. The result will be that when it is passed the imagined security of personal rating for the due exercise of the franchise will disappear altogether, and we shall have an extended franchise without any check of the kind. The inconvenience which arose from the abolition of compounding, exactly as he expected, had proved so intolerable—so great had been the hardship inflicted upon the smaller class of occupiers—that it was quite impossible to allow matters to remain as they were. An inquiry was consequently held, and they now came by a roundabout and inconvenient method to the old system, though the mode in which it was restored had made it less convenient than it was previously. Practical experience of the personal payment of rates had shown that the whole thing was a mockery and a delusion. Both parties had advocated it; the change was made purely for party and political purposes, and those purposes having been served they were now obliged to return to the old system.


said, he felt really bound to condole with his noble Friend (Earl Grey) at his finding no opportunity for objecting to this Bill. He should, however, be pleased if his noble Friend would be accurate in his statement of facts, because it was well known that Mr. Gladstone, then the Leader of the Opposition, opposed, in the strongest possible manner, the clause putting an end to compounding. In that opposition he did not receive the support which he might have expected; and. the inference that he (Earl Granville) drew from this was that it would be better for parties who were agreed in the main to act together than for small sections to unite with other parties in order to secure some particular object.


was understood to maintain the correctness of his own version.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.